Category Archives: Information

CIMCON Receives $33M for Smart Cities Solution

CIMCON Lighting, a leading global provider of smart cities technologies, announced the closing of a $33 million financing led by Digital Alpha, which includes $23 million in Series C funding and a $10 million revenue-sharing facility. Energy Impact Partners (EIP), who led the Series B also participated in the round. These funds will enable CIMCON to extend its technology lead in the smart city space and expand its sales and marketing efforts to meet the incredible demand in the market.

The $10 million revenue-sharing facility is an innovative structure provided by Digital Alpha, which will empower CIMCON and its city customers to deploy smart city initiatives with minimal upfront investment.

“We are very pleased to share the news of this recent round of funding from two valued partners,” said Anil Agrawal, CEO of CIMCON. “We have proven through our technology, our customers, and our results that the world is ready to embrace smart city technology as a critical component to urban planning and design. These funds will allow us to develop new applications and services and deepen our partnership with Cisco – and make it easier for cities to move their visions from the drawing board to the city streets.”

CIMCON Lighting’s Smart City Platform is called NearSky. It simplifies the deployment of sensors, cameras, and other devices, such as Wi-Fi access points, so cities can more easily build a digital, data-driven city. It turns any city’s existing streetlight infrastructure into a flexible, reliable, and secure digital canopy that spans the city and serves as an Internet of Municipal Things.

One of the things NearSky can is enable cities to provide mobile apps, public Wi-Fi, wayfinding, information, and EV charging stations to citizens. To me, these sound like useful things that many people would want to have in their city.

NearSky also provides cities with data storage capabilities, analysis tools, and APIs that allow the cities to process the data that is collected across the city’s network of sensors. This could be good, or bad, depending on how the people in charge of the city use that data. Some people may interpret a city’s Internet of Municipal Things as enabling surveillance of innocent people.

VLC patches multiple security flaws, two critical

There are many options out there for media playback, we’ve come a long way since Windows Media Player and Quicktime.  Alternatives abound, and some of them quite compelling.

Take the Video Lan Client, better known to everyone as VLC, which is capable playing almost any format a user can throw at it. Like any software, however, there are always bugs, and sometimes security holes  that could allow bad things to happen to good people.

VLC is issuing a number of security fixes, 33 of them to be exact, designed to keep your system healthy. Two of these are considered critical, designed to patch an out-of-bound write vulnerability and a stack-buffer-overflow bug.

According ThreatPost “Details are scant on the two high-severity bugs and how they could be exploited. Impacted is VLC 3.0.7 and the EU-FOSSA release of the player, along with code tied to the upcoming 4.0 release of the player.”

The high number of patches comes on the heels of a new bug bounty program started by the European Commission on January 7, 2019.

The updates are being pushed out so users shouldn’t need to do anything except wait, and actually, you may already have it.

5G Comes to UK on EE

5G launched today in six UK cities on the EE mobile network, offering “gigabit” speed levels for mobile device users.

The lucky six cities are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, with further rollouts to Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield later in the year. In 2020, ten more towns and cities will get 5G sites, including Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Brighton, Cambridge, Dundee, Exeter, Ipswich, Norwich, Plymouth and York.

The choice of 5G handset is a little limited right now, with only the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G available at launch, though the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Oppo Reno 5G and LG V50 ThinQ 5G can be pre-ordered at EE. The OnePlus 7 Pro 5G comes in Nebula Blue with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB ROM. Top of the range that.

And Huawei managed to get in on the act too, with a photograph showing that the BBC were using a Huawei antenna for their outside broadcast. (As spotted by The Register).

Below is a video from OnePlus showing a speed test on both a 4G and 5G network. Obviously, the real world data transfer rates will depend on many factors, such as distance from the transmitter and number of 5G phones in the area, but it’s a ten-fold increase in speed. I seem to remember similar promises going from GPRS to 3G and from 3G to 4G, so we’ll see what happens in reality once 5G handsets become the norm.

All the mobile carriers in the UK have said they’ll launch 5G in 2019 in select cities. Vodafone is expected to be next, launching 3 July.

We’ve Only Ourselves to Blame for Huawei

The US Trade Department added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its “Entity List” in mid-May. Membership of the Entity List effectively bans US companies from dealing with these foreign businesses without explicit approval from the US government. The move came after increasing trade tensions between the US and China, and security concerns about Huawei’s role in the provision of equipment for 5G mobile networks.

This isn’t about security, tariffs or even Huawei itself. This is about IP, IP theft and the loss of technology leadership.

China has been ripping off IP for years (CNBC Survey, IP Commission, Titanium Dioxide) and to a greater or lesser extent, it’s been allowed to get away with it. Everyone’s known about it, but few governments seem to be prepared to do anything about it.

Consumers have been complicit in this too. With websites like Gearbest and Alibaba selling directly from China, how many of us have bought cheap Chinese knock-offs because we wanted to save a buck? Look at action cams – why do they all look like GoPros? Try this search if you don’t believe me.

China has been through stages of economic reform since the mid-70s and has seen unprecedented growth of over 9% per annum up until 2013 as the private sector grew. With the opening up of the country, US companies see fat profits selling to the 1.3 billion Chinese citizens. China has used this to its advantage too, forcing companies to manufacture on the Chinese mainland where it’s even easier to steal the tech and learn how to make it.

Finally, there’s the realisation in the West that we have virtually gifted our IP and tech know-how to a new superpower for cheap gadgets and quick profits.  The penny has dropped only when a key piece of communication infrastructure for the next generation of mobile networks is coming from a Chinese company and Huawei is bearing the brunt.

I doubt there’s any real evidence of backdoors – President Trump let the facade slip somewhat when linking Huawei to a trade deal despite describing them as “very dangerous” – but yes, there is a risk of foreign state espionage and interference. The Russians do it, the Israelis do it, the British do it, the US does it and of course, the Chinese do it.

By letting IP theft go unpunished at an international level, the door’s been left open for Chinese firms to continue doing it, and build on that IP to create the best products. Yes, they sometimes get caught, like Huawei, but it’s still massively profitable.

We’ve only ourselves to blame.

China map photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

Poland Filed Complaint About EU’s Copyright Rule Change

Reuters reported that Poland has submitted a complaint to the European Court of Justice against copyright rules adopted by the bloc in April of 2019. The EU feels the copyright rules will protect Europe’s creative industries.

The EU copyright rules, according to Reuters, requires Google to pay publishers for news snippets. It requires Facebook to filter out protected content under copyright rules aimed at ensuring fair competition for the EU’s $1 trillion creative industries.

Reuters reported: “This system may result in adopting regulations that are analogous to preventative censorship, which is forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties,” Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski told the public broadcaster TVP Info.

On May 23, 2019, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland tweeted: “Tomorrow morning, #Poland will bring a case before the #CJEU against copyright directive, a disproportionate measure that fuels censorship and threatens freedom of expression. #Article13 #Article17 #ACTA2”

Business Insider explained that Article 17 (previously known as Article 13) makes companies liable for content uploaded to their platforms. If a user uploads a piece of content that infringes copyright, the platform is at risk. Non-commercial sites like Wikipedia and GitHub would be exempt. Start-up platforms will be held to lighter penalties than big tech companies.

Article 15 (previously known as article 11) is the “link tax” that will automatically give news publishers the right to negotiate a license with news aggregators, such as Google. It also stipulates individual journalists or “authors” are entitled to “an appropriate share” of the money their publication gets from its licensing agreement with services like Google.

In another tweet, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland explained why it is concerned about the Copyright Directive:

  • The directive does not ensure a balance between the protection of right holders and the interests of EU citizens & EU enterprises.
  • The directive does not ensure legal clarity, fostering legal uncertainty for stakeholders and endangering the rights of EU citizens.
  • It could have a negative impact on the competitiveness of the European digital single market.
  • There is a risk that it will hinder innovations instead of promoting them.

Engadget reported that Poland is characterizing its argument as a free speech issue. This is interesting because if that argument is accepted by the court, it could influence other EU countries to make the same claim.

Amazon Pays you to Quit Your Job to Drive for Them! #1367

Amazon wants its employees to quit, give them a three months severance package and $10k in cash to start a business that would have the prior employee drive for them. Quite incredible if you think about it. But I look at the math on it and wonder if someone can actually make a full-time living working for Amazon as an independent delivery person. Considering the cost of benefits for a sole business owner I really doubt it.

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13 Minutes to the Moon

It’s been 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquillity and there are many commemorative events coming up to the anniversary on 21st July.

As expected, NASA is celebrating and there’s a whole raft of information and historical footage on a special Apollo 50th section of its website. I particularly like the mission audio that’s presented day-by-day. Listen to day 5 from about 6 mins in for the last few seconds of the descent and as the lunar module lands you hear the immortal words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.

On the watch side, Omega’s Speedmaster Professional is forever associated with space exploration, visiting the moon six times – it’s not called the Moonwatch for nothing. To mark the event, there’s the Apollo 11 Anniversary edition in gold and red. Kind of pricey, mind you.

At the cheaper end of the market, i.e. free, the BBC World Service is joining in on the celebrations with 13 Minutes to the Moon, a series of radio programmes and podcasts based on interviews and recordings from the people who were there including Michael Collins, Jim Lovell and, Poppy Northcutt who was the first woman to work as an engineer in an operational support role in NASA’s Mission Control.

The first episode is available on 13 May but there are a few teasers in the podcast feed already. Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer has done the theme music. This is going to be epic.

Additional material.